Traveling to a new country can be daunting. When you travel somewhere unfamiliar, you open yourself up to danger & uncertainty, but most of all, you’re giving yourself an opportunity to grow.
I remember the feeling I had when I first landed in Bangkok, I just thought- this is it, there’s no turning back now. & three months later, I have successfully traveled through Thailand, alone.
I traveled Thailand for three months (yes, I know that’s a long time, but when you have an infinite amount of time, why rush?). During that time, I had to learn lessons the hard way, like that you should always flush the toilet before using the bum gun or that bee eggs taste as gross as they sound. So in honor of my time in Thailand coming to a close, here’s a list of tips & tricks that will make your travels a little less stressful (hopefully).
- Always bargain the price (politely). Everything is negotiable. Smile, ask them what they can offer you. Low ball them by asking for a very low price. They will laugh and say no no and then you will meet somewhere in the middle. If they aren’t budging on the price, don’t be afraid to walk away because you’ll find the same thing in five minutes.
- When using an ATM, you will be charged 200 baht ATM fee.
- The purple ATMs have the lowest amount of additional fees. Whatever you do, avoid the yellow ATMs.
- Take out 10,000-20,000 THB at a time to save money from fees & put somewhere safe, like in your hostel’s locker.
- Keep 1,000-2,000 THB on you at all times
- Everywhere only accepts cash, even hostels. The only place I know that has a card reader is McDonalds.
- The islands are a lot more expensive than northern Thailand.
- Get a True Move SIM card from a phone stand, which are usually in the mall.
- Once you have a SIM card, you can top up your phone at 7/11.
- When you top up (add more data), buy it by # of days, not GB because the GB will run out fast.
- Take the receipt back to the hostel you’re staying at & a Thai staff member can teach you how to upload it onto your phone.
- Most restaurants, hostels, bars, etc. have wifi. Just ask for the info.
- Learn basic words like hello, thank you, etc. You can learn the correct pronunciation from hostel workers that are Thai, they are happy to help.
- No matter what country you’re in, learn some of the language. Locals are far more likely to help you if you show them that you are trying.
- If you are requesting something, like mai goong (no seafood) say kaaaa at the end, which makes it polite. So, mai goong kaaaa.
- First, Thai food is incredible. It is so rich with flavor, full of spices and herbs, but, it is not healthy. Thai’s add sugar, MSG’s and salt to every dish.
- If you have stomach issues the first few days you’re here, it’s normal. I know people that have lived here for years & they still catch the Thai Belly and are stuck in the bathroom for a day.
- Try the local food! I can’t stress this enough. You can’t fully experience a country until you eat like a local.
- I play a game where I walk/drive around until I find a crowded restaurant with Thai’s eating & that’s where I go. I am usually the only tourist in there, but I just smile & sit down.
- Learn your favorite dishes Thai name so you can order them at places that don’t have English menus (that’s when you know you’re definitely getting authentic food).
- My go to’s are Pad Krapow Gai (Chicken, basil & chili with rice), Kao Soi Gai (curry noodle soup with chicken), Papaya salad mai goong pet (papaya salad, no seafood, spicy).
- Learn some key Thai food phrases like, gai (chicken, pronounced like guy), moo (pork), pet (spicy), mai pet kaaa (no spicy)
- Thai’s will not bring you the bill without you asking for it, they don’t want you to think you are being rushed out. You either have to call them over when you’re ready to pay or go directly to the chef to pay (depending on how small the restaurant is).
- Water is usually self-serve, or they give you a cup when your meal comes. Look for the big water jug and next to it will be glasses, just walk up and get water yourself.
- Food will never come out at the same time. I grew up on strict rules that you only eat when everyone else has their food. Don’t do that in Thailand. Usually, there is only one woman cooking so the food will come out randomly. If you wait for everyone to get their food, yours will get cold.
- My favorite Thai dishes are:
- Pa Krapow with a fried egg
- Kao Soi Gai
- Green Curry
- Costs of food:
- Noodles 35-50 THB
- Noodle Soup 30-40 THB
- Rice dishes 30-50 THB
- Papaya Salad 30 THB
- Fruit Shakes 20-40 THB
- Curries 50-80 THB
- Sleeper trains, fan or A/C is a great way to travel around the country.
- Ask your hostel for help purchasing tickets.
- Don’t buy tickets online before, it’s cheaper to get them once you are in the country.
Motorbikes are the main mode of transportation in Thailand, everyone from 12-year-olds to 80-year-olds drive them. They are fun, cheap & efficient, but they can also be really dangerous. If you are going to rent one, always wear your helmet, don’t drink & bike, practice driving a lot before going on a busy road and be safe.
- Ask your hostel for rental shop recommendations.
- Once you get to the rental shop, check out the bikes and choose the one you like. Try to negotiate the price. They may go down 50 THB if you’re renting it for more than one day. The basic bike ranges from 150-200 THB a day.
- When you choose a bike, take a video of it before to document the scratches and dents.
- After you rent the bike, keep the receipt in a safe place & have it with you when you return the bike.
- Be prepared to leave your passport, identification card or a few thousand THB with the rental shop as insurance.
- Just remember, motorbike shops may try to rip you off (especially in Koh Tao) so be cautious & if something feels sketchy, it probably is.
- In big cities like Chiang Mai, there are police checkpoints that ticket Westerners for not having an international license. They will try to ask for 1,000 THB as a fine, so keep smaller bills in your wallet and hide the larger notes. When the cop asks for the money, say you only have 100 THB on you. Usually, he will accept this & let you go.
Tuk Tuks & Red Trucks
- Tuk Tuks are those little scooter/car/golf cart looking things that buzz around big cities. Honestly, I avoid them because they are over priced. But if you want the Thailand Tuk Tuk experience, negotiate the price.
- The Thai price is 10 THB per kilometer.
- Instead of Tuk Tuks, take the Red Trucks that are in cities like Chiang Mai. They are a lot cheaper, it costs 20 THB to take them anywhere in the Old City.
- Always use the meter.
- This is especially important in Bangkok. Before getting in the car, make sure they turn on the meter for your ride.
- Or, you both need to agree on a set price before getting into the taxi.
- In big cities, Uber is also a good way to travel around. The plus side to using Uber is you know you’re not getting ripped off.
- Thai’s understand the word ‘toilet,’ so when referring to the restroom say toilet & they will point you in the right direction.
- Be prepared to pay 5-10 THB in touristy places.
- Use the bum gun to clean yourself & then wipe off the water with the toilet paper and throw it in the trash can.
- But always flush the toilet before using the bum gun! (imagine splashing…)
- If there is a toilet top sitting on the ground, it’s a squatter toilet. Put your feet on the sides of the toilet, squat down & vuala! It’s a lot easier to use than it looks, I promise! Fun fact, Chinese use squatter toilets like this so when they visit countries that have normal toilets, some of them still get up & put their feet on the toilet seat. So if you ever see footprints on the toilet seat you’ll know why.
- The box inside the showers, near the shower head, is the temperature box for the water.
- If the water doesn’t get hot, turn the pressure down so there’s less water to heat up.
- Be prepared to take a lot of cold showers.
- Depending on your budget, you can stay in luxury hostels or the bare minimum bed, cold shower & toilet hostel.
- The bare minimum will costs $2-4 a night and the luxury one will cost $10-12 a night.
- Hostel World is your friend. Download the app so you can compare hostels in the area you’re visiting.
- When you’re looking at apps like Hostel World, think about the experience you want & where your priorities stand. For example, if you want a crazy party hostel, it’s not likely to be super clean. If you want a quiet hostel, look for high ratings in cleanliness and staff, not the atmosphere.
- For me, I care most about atmosphere, value for money, location, cleanliness, and so on. Of course, the best hostels are the ones that have a perfect balance of all these qualities. Shout out to Bed Station Hostel in Bangkok, Common Grounds in Pai, Stamps in Chiang Mai and Pop-In in Ao Nang for being awesome hostels during my journey.
- Ask the staff questions! Ask what their favorite things to do in town are, or their fav places to eat, ask where to rent a motorbike, etc. They are there to help!
- Women, load up on the tampons before you come. I have only found cardboard ones here.
- Mosquito spray and sunscreen are a must. The mosquitos are brutal here, especially for someone like me who attracts them.
- If you get bit by an animal, go to the hospital straight away to get a rabies shot.
- Bring diarrhea medicine to relieve you if you get a bug.
- If you’re likely to get car or sea sickness, bring motion sickness medicine.
- Smiles will get you far in Thailand. They don’t call it the land of smiles for nothing.
- Pregame by buying alcohol from 7/11 before going to the bars, it’ll save you a lot of money.
- Sangsom (Thai rum) Coke/soda water is the local drink & usually half the price.
The best advice I can leave you with is, leave your schedule open. Don’t plan too much. You never know what will happen, who or where you will fall in love with, or where the road will lead you. Be open minded & ready to experience an amazing country.
peace, love & safe travels